An amino acid previously thought to boost cognition and memory has been found to stimulate a gene known to lead to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia researchers have found.
A study published in Cell Metabolism built on previous research into an enzyme known as “PGDH”, which is present in the blood of older people and known to precipitate the onset of Alzheimer’s. It also affects more than half of all dementia sufferers.
Each year, over 200,000 Brits are diagnosed with a form of the fatal degenerative brain disease known as dementia but charities like The Alzheimer’s Society say research is desperately underfunded, with four times as many researchers working on cancer research as there is dementia research.
In light of these findings about the amino acid serine, the study’s authors are cautioning against the use and recommendation of any such serine-based supplements as a remedy for Alzheimer’s disease.
Through studying soft tissue in the brain, the researchers found that levels of the enzyme PGDH were much higher in adults with Alzheimer’s disease, including those with “a-symptomatic” forms of dementia.
As PGDH is the key enzyme in producing the amino acid serine, this increased level of PGDH IN Alzheimer’s patients means that they are already producing higher-than-normal levels of serine.
“Anyone looking to recommend or take serine to mitigate Alzheimer’s symptoms should exercise caution,” said study co-author Riccardo Calandrelli, who is a research associate in Zhong’s lab.
In their study, they found that a higher level presence of PGDH was also an indicator for the severity of dementia and for the severity of cognitive decline.
The levels of PGDH were so much higher in the brains of those with Alzheimer’s that scientists are hopeful it could form the basis for a new early test for dementia, capable of testing for the onset of the disease even in non-suffering adults.
“The fact that this gene’s expression level directly correlates with both a person’s cognitive ability and disease pathology is remarkable,” said Professor Zhong.
“Being able to quantify both of these complex metrics with a single molecular measurement could potentially make diagnosis and monitoring progression of Alzheimer’s disease much simpler.”